At the end of the month, most Israelis who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic will no longer receive unemployment benefits, but those among them who are suffering from disabilities or have special needs will face almost insurmountable difficulties as they attempt to re-enter the workforce.
Most employers, although they would likely never admit the fact, opt not to hire disabled staff when there is no shortage of available applicants for every job, leaving the unemployed disabled Israelis out in the cold.
Yakir Nov, 33, lives with disability that was the result of trauma he suffered when he was a child. He says that despite the fact that he cannot read or write, he would be an asset to any employer.
"My last employer was very satisfied with my work. I wish others would give me a chance," he says.
Before the pandemic, Yakir worked as a clerk at a law firm, but was furloughed shortly before the first lockdown and has been out of work since.
"I was doing fine financially until the coronavirus hit," he says. "Now I apply for every job I see that I believe I am qualified to do. With no work and no unemployment benefits I will only receive disability pay from the National Insurance Institute and that is far from enough."
Even now Yakir has had to cut down on his expenses.
"I started dental treatment just before the pandemic and spread the payments over 2.5 years. Now I've neglected my teeth and try to make my payments as well as continue to pay for electricity, water and food. The unemployment checks were a lifeline for me," he says.
"I do not want to be reliant on the state. I want to work. Not only in order to pay my bills. Rejecting me because I am disabled is discrimination and leaves me feeling very bad," Yakir says.
There are four times more disabled people than non-disabled among those made redundant because of the pandemic.
"Unfortunately, we are once again witnessing the ugly exclusion of disabled people in the workforce," says Naor Lavie, a spokesperson for the Disabled Panthers advocacy group.
"The government incentivizes employers to return bring back furloughed staff but many have seized the opportunity presented by the pandemic to reduce their workforce, and the disabled are again left behind," he says.
"I urge the new finance minister and prime minister to intervene and see that this portion of the population is hired back. It is in everyone's benefit," he says.
In a letter sent to Knesset Finance Committee chair Alex Kushnir, Likud MK Keren Barak said that disabled people face great hurdles in their efforts to return to work.
"It is incumbent upon us as representatives of the public to ensure this portion of the population receives the required assistance," she wrote.
"Leaving them in the lurch will create an inhuman situation," said Barak.
The Finance Committee was scheduled to discuss the matter next week.